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2013 Prediction: Social Business Tech will Stop Blaming Culture for Failure

The prevailing theory is that the main reason your business is not yet “social” is that you aren’t trying hard enough to change your culture. Really?

In 2013, I predict that the "culture" bluff will be called. Technology will be called to account for its fair share of the challenge.

Lavoy_Tech_Culture.jpgFew of us are surfing gaily through hyper-connected organizations, where complexity is a virtue rather than a curse. And while arcane cultural norms aren’t helping, technological innovation has hit a plateau.

In 2013 the industry will acknowledge that while we’ve made great progress in the last five years, the technology that naturally leads to a well orchestrated, connected, collaborative organization has yet to arrive.

Social Business technology innovation has been significant and welcome, but progress has stalled. We have gone as far as the current model will take us, and we need a new model. Our insight of and support of the many forms of communication and collaboration is lagging, and while this may not be the fault of the technology, it is limiting the technologists. We need to dig deeper.

Simply put: we did all this great thinking and built all this great stuff, and it's happening, but not to the extent or depth that we expected. Is it just a matter of time and culture? Or is it time to ask ourselves what more can we do?

If “Social Business” were technologically solved and now just a cultural problem, then shouldn’t we be seeing more consistent results from early adopters and the early majority? Where’s the data, where is the expertise, where’s the progress? Is it simply that we are so inarticulate and unable to gather data that we can’t detect or express our great success? (this is not an entirely rhetorical question).

A McKinsey Global Institute Report from May 2012 claims that there’s a trillion dollars in business value waiting to be unlocked by social business technology and that more than two thirds of it comes in the form of a 25 percent increase in “productivity” for knowledge workers.

But last summer, Dachis Group found that in nearly 60 percent of companies with enterprise-wide deployments, a measly 10 to 20 percent of employees were actively engaged with the tools. Forrester’s numbers are even bleaker. This is a fairly significant adoption gap for a technology that is supposed to be liberating, desirable, easy to use and in demand by its end users.

The difference between a cultural and a paradigm shift? When we no longer have the basic words we need to describe the problem or its solution. When philosophers are suddenly relevant and important again after at least a quarter century off. Words like social, collaboration, culture, engagement, productivity and even business and success are hotly debated not just in ivory towers, but by great thinkers who are now regular features in Forbes and the New York Times. 

If we want to realize the breakthroughs we can see in our imaginations, then in 2013, we need to push the insight, the language to describe it and the technology we use to support them to a far deeper level, and the three will move in concert. You can’t have one without the others.

The five key developments we’ll see in 2013:

1. A language and a better feature set for “collaboration.”

We know that there are all sorts of collaboration, all sorts of teams, all sorts of work, and yet we have a very poor vocabulary for the breadth and depth of the issue. A typical knowledge worker is part of many teams and an increasing number of initiatives and projects on any given day. Keeping track of status, resources and implications is becoming increasingly difficult. Observe the hand wringing in the IT-Exec-HR-R&D-Marketing departments as they attempt to address these vague but excruciating challenges and apply equally vague social solutions against them.

A more sophisticated understanding of what it means to collaborate and to create shared information environments will lead to technology with features that actually begin to address these problems directly.

2. Shifting from enabling “Social” to enabling “Complexity”

“Social Business” is another troublingly vague term with little meaning, except as an inept antonym for "hierarchical." Social is good. We should know and care about each other, we must embrace our humanity to leverage it. But that’s table stakes. All those unicorns and rainbows (of which I am a great fan) are a stepping stone to a greatness we can imagine but can’t yet touch.

 

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